Diary of a Mum: (8) To party bag or not to party bag?

We’ve followed Claire Bates through every birthing, feeding, weaning, and potty training trauma imaginable – in triplicate. Now her three boys are no longer babies, what could be so hard?

To party bag or not to party bag? That, is the middle class mummy question.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve done my time on the children’s party circuit. My eldest has had six, Number Two has had four and Number Three has had well, one.  Sort of.
He and the girl from next door inhaled an entire chocolate cake avec candles on his big day and her party bag was easy – a Sainsbury’s carrier bag full of her puked-on clothes.
Her mum loved it. None of that plastic cr*p that just gets chucked in the bin, she said.
I think she was joking.
You see, every so often a braver mummy than me says she’s “not going to do party bags” and we all smile wryly and just hope for her sake she hasn’t invited Hyperactive Harry who will explode into an Augustus Gloop-style meltdown if he doesn’t get his required amount of e-numbers and transfats in a placky bag with his name on it.
I tentatively tried something different last year, with a view to also pleasing the scary eco-warrior yoga mummies who have invaded our village.
I couldn’t stretch to tofu for the birthday tea so I endured their eye-rolling through the evil jam sarnies and the huffing over the cheesy Wotsits but thought I’d played the trump card when, with a flourish, I presented each earth child with a bag made from recycled newspapers containing a plant pot, some compost and a packet of seeds.
There, I thought, beat that dear green goddesses.

“Yellow Pages in hand, after three hours I honestly thought a copy of Fly Fishing was going to be easier to come by than a simple bouncy castle for Saturday."

But no. Orlando (purleeeease – Orlando? Seriously?) had a newsprint allergy – dear God, what were the odds of that? – and Emma’s slightly neurotic mother wanted to know the dimensions of the seeds in case her newborn defied science, biology and frankly, a Norris McWhirter Guinness Book of Records adjudication, to walk a year early, climb up to the utility room worktop and with the dexterity of a PG Tips chimp, open the packet and swallow the bloody seeds. As if the crestfallen faces of Number Two’s invitees when they grabbily took their saving-the-planet bags weren’t enough.
I bloody well refuse to spend sixty quid on ickle parachute men with no genitalia (trust me, have a look), a pot of bubbles that anyone with fingers wider than a matchstick can’t fish the wand out of, and those ANNOYING
LY LOUD parping unravelling blowers that once took Grandma’s eye out.
She has Bupa now she’s retired and rich so has a beautiful glass eye. Now we don’t have to stare at the gaping hole, we can all move on.
Dreadful business.
There are companies who do party bags pre-stuffed with all sorts of plastic paraphernalia for ridiculous we-saw-you-coming prices and yes, I see the attraction of the ease of it all, but I hate the idea I’m being conned.
Children’s parties are an expensive habit and if, like me, you have three children you have three times the joy.
Mister Make-You-Laugh wanted £375 for two hours of “fun and frolics” (uh oh, sounds like he’s on some kind of register), which funnily enough did make me laugh.
And Ponies For Parties did exactly what it said on the tin – they would bring a pony to my party – for “only” £550. I’m assuming Mister Ed made the sarnies, wrapped the pressies and blew up the flamin’ balloons for that?
He didn’t.
Given that I had even biffed pass-the-parcel this year since the horror of last year’s was still all too fresh in my memory (despite several post-party mojitos in an attempt to erase it) I decided I had to do something for my wee middle boy on his fourth birthday because I do love him more than cheesecake.
If I was going to front out the no-party-bag pledge, then Bloke and I were going to have to give him a party to remember, so we settled on a bouncy castle.
It seemed nice and easy – all we needed to do was sign in octuplet to say that we would pay out $80 million to anyone who so much as twisted an ankle and we were all set. Or so we thought….
48 hours (or more accurately, “two sleeps”) before the party kicked off and we were embroiled in a nightmare, J R Hartley-type search for a new bouncy castle after a double-booking disaster.
Yellow Pages in hand, after three hours I honestly thought a copy of Fly Fishing was going to be easier to come by than a simple bouncy castle for Saturday.
But the tinternet came up trumps (it’s great that worldly wise web) and the “way cool” (Bloke’s words, not the three-year-old’s) bouncy slide arrived in the nick of time.
And they had a ball. As did the adults, after a few glasses of pink fizz.
And by 5pm, with three hours of bouncy sliding behind them, not one party-goer even noticed we hadn’t had PTP (as it was covertly referred to by Bloke – he’s an Army officer – they LOVE the acronyms, so “good morning” is GM and “HOW MUCH do you want to hire that pony you thief?” is HMDYWT……..).
All we had to do was wave farewell without the bleedin’ party bags.
And as Hyperactive moved towards the hallway to collect his coat and his mummy started jangling the XC90 keys, I began to sweat.
Please don’t say it Harry. Please dear lord don’t let Harry bring up the PBs…
On cue: “Where’s my party bag?”
Er…it’s right here. And I hand over a placky bag, full of placky cr*p, with a placky smile on my face.  I’ll make the stand next year. Honest.